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A Michelin-starred Vancouver restaurant is making some significant changes

"Vancouver is one of the most expensive cities to live in the world; these changes will help make living here a little more comfortable.” 
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Vancouver's award-winning St. Lawrence restaurant will start 2023 off with some key changes to its operations, aimed at giving staff a more balanced work-home life, guests an elevated experience, and the community more support

Restaurateurs have had to be nimble over the past two-plus years in the face of pandemic restrictions, rising costs, and staffing challenges, but Vancouver's J-C Poirier is once again illustrating he and his acclaimed Quebecois-style restaurant St. Lawrence are able to adapt.

Poirier announced Wednesday (Dec. 7) St. Lawrence will start 2023 off with revised hours and offerings, "aimed at improving employment conditions for staff and creating an even better dining experience for guests," according to a media release.

To that end, Poirier and the team will enact some significant changes in the new year, including being open Tuesday through Saturday only to allow staff Sunday to be with family, and the dining room at once seat fewer guests nightly but have more staff in the kitchen and on the floor to offer even more attentive service as they enjoy an enhanced seven-course meal.

Additionally, "back-of-house employees — who work longer shifts than front-of-house staff — will clock four-day workweeks." For all employees, St. Lawrence will now offer extended coverage for mental health treatments, as well as company-matched contributions to employee RRSPs.

Further, to increase its connection to the community, St. Lawrence will also donate a portion of proceeds from each reservation to a designated Vancouver Downtown Eastside charity each quarter.

As a result of the operational changes, the price of the restaurant’s monthly seven-course menu will increase from $89 plus tax to $125 plus tax and gratuity. Ultimately, the final tab per meal still reflects an excellent value, particularly in light of St. Lawrence recently receiving a prestigious one-star designation from the Michelin Guide. 

It stands to reason that those who can will still choose to dine at St. Lawrence; one of the biggest draws in town for a meal out, the much-lauded Railtown restaurant is booked up almost as fast as the monthly reservations are released. (You'll want to sign up for the restaurant's newsletter to get the coveted bat signal that it's time to book.)

January seven-course menu marks return of popular wintertime offering

In January, St. Lawrence will once again offer one of its most popular menus, the wintry Cabane à Sucre, which takes its cues from the venerable "sugaring" tradition of Quebec. At St. Lawrence, it’s an elevated version of a Sugar Shack menu, with favourites like Soupe aux Pois, Venison Tourtière, and Maple Tart, as well as some new delights. 

Poirier has never shied away from doing things a little differently at St. Lawrence. In May 2020, V.I.A. spoke to the celebrated Vancouver chef about his decision to switch to a pre-paid ticketed-style model at the restaurant as a result of chronic no-shows eating away at already razor-thin margins. 

"It's a risky move, of course, but I think [diners] will understand," he said at the time.

The risk paid off, and now Poirier, whose beautiful St. Lawrence-inspired cookbook Where The River Narrows made a recent debut, is banking on customers being on board for these further adjustments.

“As the holiday season approaches, it has me thinking about what’s most important,” said Poirier in a media release. “Success is not about gain, it’s about giving back to people, especially to the staff who have been loyal to me. Vancouver is one of the most expensive cities to live in the world; these changes will help make living here a little more comfortable.” 

“I love this industry deeply but the hours are long and there’s little time for family. Burnout is common; that’s a challenge for employees and owners,” said Poirier. “We’ve had an incredible run and we’re now in the fortunate position to do all this.”

Reservations for the Cabane à Sucre menu at St. Lawrence are available starting Dec. 9, with seatings commencing Jan. 18, 2023. Bookings can be made at that time through the end of February, however the menu will be running through the end of March; March reservations will be released at a later date.  

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